By Muyiwa Olayinka
What is the definition of a youth?
According to Wikipedia, youth is the time of life when one is young, and often means the time between childhood and maturity. It is also defined as the appearance of freshness, vigor and spirit. The definition of a specific age range varies, as youth is not defined as a stage that can be tied to specific age ranges.
For the purpose of this article, let us accept that youth starts from the age of 25 to 57 to drive home the point.
For a very long time in Nigeria there had been persistent calls for youth participation in democratic process. This is imperative because of long term domination of familiar faces in our political processes for a long time. Ages of active political actors especially at the Presidency level had been between the age range of 70 to 80. They are not ready to let go despite the fact that it is obvious these generations are fading away.
The current President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is 76 and his closest challenger in the upcoming general election in 2019, is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that recently clocks 72.Since nature abhors vacuum, while the youths are not getting their acts together, these septuagenarians are enjoying the spot lights and are not willing to let go easily.
To check this old order, one Member of House of Representative, Tony Nwulu from Imo state sponsored the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill and was signed to law by President Buhari raising hopes of youths to actively participate in politics.
A notable achievement of this bill is the reduction of age qualification to contest for the office of President from 40 to 35, Governor from 35 to 30, Senator from 35 to 30, House of Representatives from 30 to 25, and State House of assembly from 30 to 25.
Waking up to the clarion call and in an unprecedented manner for the first time, Nigerian youths records the highest number of Presidential aspirants in our history. Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission INEC has so far registered 97 political parties for the 2019 general election. 68 political parties have presented their Presidential candidates. Unfortunately, only 6 aspirants have shown seriousness in the contest. Many of them are pretenders joining the fray to collect support grants from INEC, or to affix the title of former Presidential candidate to their names. Some of them have started enjoying the accolades of being called “His Excellency”, when they are not yet elected.
Sadly some aspirants are being propped up and financed by the leading parties to play the role of spoilers or to split votes where necessary. However other serious contenders are visible and have been campaigning vigorously.
The notable ones are:
- President Muhammadu Buhari (76) of All Progressive Congress
- Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (72) of Peoples Democratic Party
- Dr Oby Ezekwesili (55) of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria
- Mr Kingsley Moghalu (56) of Young Progressive Party
- Mr Omoyele Sowore ( 47)of African Action Congress
- Mr Fela Durotoye (47) of Alliance For New Nigeria
- Mr Hashim Olawepo (53) of Alliance for New Nigeria.
- Mr Donald Duke (57) of Social Democratic Party
They have been making use of public rallies, personal visits to major and critical stakeholders, electronic media, banners, posters and the social media tools to connect with the electorates.
Electioneering process and campaigns entail financial backing in Nigeria. It is obvious the two leading parties of PDP and APC have the national spread and the financial muscle to successfully run their campaigns. Others are just barely struggling to get across to their supporters. It is politically expedient that these other young parties and their candidates should come together, form a broad based platform and evolve a consensus candidate.
This option was considered with the forming of PACT (Presidential Aspirants Coming Together) that included aspirants like Mr. Fela Durotoye, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Mr. Tope Fasua, Alistair Soyode, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu and other 9 were signatories to it. The objective of forming PACT is to have as a consensus candidate and have a formidable platform, so as to collectively challenge these two leading parties. At the end of the rigorous and tortuous exercise, Fela Durotoye was chosen as the consensus candidate.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian character came into play, others kicked against this consensus candidate citing different reasons. Succinctly put, ego and pride killed this laudable initiative. This is how the PACT arrangement met its waterloo.
Going by the figures recently released by (INEC), little did Nigerian youth realize they have lost a golden opportunity to turn the apple cart.
The figure released for 2019 general election shows that, out of 84,004,084 registered voters, 51.11% are youths (with ages 18 to 35), 29.97% are middle aged (ages 36 to 50), 15.22% are elderly (ages 51 to 70), and 3.69% (old 70 and above). If they had worked out the arithmetic they would have known that nothing would have stopped them from realizing their dreams. They have blown away the opportunity as a result of ego.
Invariably, they have voluntarily and ignorantly handed over their rights to the lowest voting population of 3.69% (ages 70 and above). As they have gone separate ways to campaign, it is glaring that these youthful aspirants are not connecting with their main constituency. The followers are confused and bewildered.
Do we need to blame the followers?
It is so sad that inability to muster political cohesion, the followers (the Nigerian youths) are scattered and have been mobilized to support the old order. The youths are often seen at campaign grounds chanting Sai ‘Baba’ or Sai ‘Atiku’. They are competing against each other in social media supporting respective candidates of their choice. In summary, it is painful that Nigerian youths are not ready to take their destinies in their hands.
We are back at the old order. With this fractious division among the youths, one does not need a soothsayer that the Presidential race is two way race between the incumbent President Buhari and his main challenger Alhaji Atiku. Others are just scratching the surfaces with muffled campaigns.